We are finally home now. We started our journey home Tuesday afternoon. Before we got in the van, I stood there studying our reflections in a rain puddle at the retreat center where we had finished taking a day of rest and rejuvenation. In Santiago (James), I was reading about how not putting into practice the Word is like looking at yourself in the mirror and then forgetting what your own face looks like (James 1:23-24).

On Sunday after church, one of the men of Pueblo de Esperanza had asked me if we had met our objective for the mission trip. God only knows what He’s begun, but I think we have established friendships that we will need to give energy and prayer to nurture. It feels like something is taking root. We want to keep interacting with our friends even though we cannot be together in the same place.

On Saturday, I had been very sick. Later that night, I opened a papaya I had bought at the market under the church. I was starving. I ate the whole thing, and it was delicious.  All the seeds were already sprouting their first cotyledons. I knew from the week before one of the people of Pueblo de Esperanza who likes to grow plants, so I carefully scooped out the seeds and set them aside and I asked through WhatsApp if she would grow them. She agreed. On Sunday, I carefully brought her the seeds. She agreed to plant them and share the sprouts with her friends and family when they took hold. After the communion service, I wrote a quick note saying the seeds were like drops of hope for our growing relationship between the two churches. A few days later, she shared with me the picture of them potted and reminded me that all things are possible in Christ.

Everyday has been touched by our time in Mexico; yes, it is interesting to be a traveler in a new place. In Metepec, the town of our retreat center, we followed Luke’s Google map to a panaderia, but the map was not the terrain, and we were uncertain. It took us up a path certainly nearly impassible by car. Along the way we saw a burro and lots of dogs. I needed to stop and ask the locals for directions twice. I love the power of starting a conversation with polite pleasantries as required in this culture. They gave good directions, and I wished them all a good day, but we walked right past the panaderia at first. We still were not expecting what we found. The second time I asked for directions, we found the panaderia. We were directed back down the path to a window we had just passed. There, I was directed to ring a bell, and a young teen answered our call. Soon we choosing delicious bread from a basket. Yes, this entire mission trip was an interesting journey, but we have to be light wherever we are.

The letter of appreciation: A poem translated from the heart

I feel it: my life has changed; all has changed,
And there is no limit to what could be.
I was parched and drank of your presence,
Like a deaf man accepts his deafness—
Both captivating and motivating me
To live for the faith with courage,
Polishing me with fear and intrigue, like
Looking down the sights of a gun barrel
And not knowing how to fire it.

Today is clearer than yesterday:
I learned the greatest failure
Would be to be without you.
Without you, what value would the world see
In listening to me, saying,
“Without you, the world falls apart.
Without your direction,
Life would fall apart.
What ruins there would be.”

One day, money will bring no happiness to my family–
Money only buys more and more things…
It never buys interesting homes—
It never buys real relationships.

All the pain: without hope,
We drown in rum.
That’s why I sing of His love—
It frees me from evil.

This is from my heart:
My words go out for others
But I chose all that is true
And value life here,
leaving all the rest to the side
In order to be like you, a drink to others,
a drink that shines the ancient ways.
I prefer to shine His ancient ways.

It is good that I tell you
of all the promises to come:
the blessings are for those who are loyal and obey.

Bad days are only apprenticeships for the wise,
My best friends…

–A follower of God

Yesterday, while we were in the airport during a five-hour layover, one of the teens gave me a letter of appreciation that had been written for her from the heart by one of the Pueblo de Esperanza teens who had shared his testimony earlier in the week, the same I had I mentioned in an earlier blog. She needed help translating it, and so I did my best and spent about three hours interpreting and translating it. I am certain that I did not get all the words exactly right, and I know I had to change some of the idioms to translate into English, and there were times when I had to decipher the handwriting and minimal punctuation. At the end of the letter, he had addressed it to most of the members of the team. I chatted with the writer this morning and he agreed to share it with you anonymously. This interpretation is from my heart and I believe it captures his sentiments about our mission trip, and words he’s reaffirming for himself, and I think his words have value for our own reflections of our trip to Mexico.

Please pray for this young follower of God who has paid a price for his faith. Indeed, real relationships are beyond the treasures of this world.